Six-year plan for unpaved roads moves forward

Although some funding is in place to connect Berkmar Drive to Lewis & Clark Drive in northern Albemarle County, it’s not enough to complete the $10.2 million project. The Board of Supervisors last week told county staff to delay a potential shift of the money in place to other projects.

Only about $2.2 million is available to complete a road that would stretch from the University of Virginia Research Park to the 29th Place shopping center. An extension of Berkmar Drive from Hilton Heights Road to a previously completed portion at Hollymead Town Center was included in the Route 29 Solutions package that featured the grade-separated interchange at U.S. 29 and Rio Road.

Albemarle sought funds for the Berkmar extension under Smart Scale, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s ranking program for road projects, but it did not make the cut in the most recent round. The money already in place comes from TeleFee Funds, which are what utilities companies pay to place infrastructure in VDOT rights-of-way.

During a Wednesday presentation to the Board of Supervisors, Kevin McDermott, the county’s principal planner for transportation, noted that the funds could be moved to other secondary road projects and priorities such as sidewalk maintenance or additional paving projects. Supervisors are in favor of continuing to reserve TeleFee Funds for Berkmar for as long as VDOT will allow.

Supervisor Norman Dill suggested keeping the money in place and possibly using it and any potential state funding to at least construct the portion of Berkmar from Timberwood Boulevard to Airport Road.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she was in favor of keeping the funds intact and studying the possibility of putting it toward a Zan Road bridge over U.S. 29, if that speeds that project along. The most recent proposal for the area around Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 includes linking Zan Road in Charlottesville to the rear of the Shops at Stonefield to alleviate vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic problems. The most ambitious version in the Hydraulic Small Area Plan calls for the connection to be broad and landscaped.

“Let’s not assign [the Berkmar funds] to anything right now until we figure out that connection over [U.S.] 29 there at Stonefield and into the city because that could … have a huge impact for our residents,” McKeel said.

McDermott and Daniel Butch, the county’s senior planner for transportation, said staff would look into it.

Butch and McDermott also presented the priorities for the paving of unpaved roads in the county. Albemarle has nearly $551,000 that can only be used for paving projects. The county largely does this work under VDOT’s Rural Rustic Road Paving Program because it is less costly to pave under this program, the process is more consistent with maintaining the character of the county’s rural areas and it minimizes the need for right-of-way acquisition for the work. Roads are taken under consideration for addition to the list through requests from stakeholders with interest in the road, according to a staff report.

To meet the qualifications for a Rural Rustic Road, the road must have a traffic volume under 1,500 vehicles per day, the Board of Supervisors must pass a resolution declaring the road’s status and indicate that minimal growth is expected along the road, the curves on the road must be able to handle any increase in speed and only minimal work would be required on the road’s drainage.

New roads added last year to the list of 36 are portions of Burnt Mill Road, Reservoir Road, Wesley Chapel Road, Henderson Lane, Via Lane, Mountain Vista Road and Fox Mountain Road. A public hearing on the full list is scheduled for June 19.

At least one road is slated to be removed from the line-up. Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she had asked for Via Lane only to be evaluated because of problems with potholes and ditches. Residents did not want the dead-end road off Browns Gap Turnpike near White Hall paved, she said.

“It does not have public support to be on the list,” Mallek said.

Although the county schedules paving on an on-demand basis and has considered it a low priority since the 1980s, Via Lane could have asphalt in the future if VDOT funding for paving does not dry up.

“At the state level, the goal is to pave all unpaved roads,” the staff report states.